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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:39 pm 
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I’ve wanted to start a discussion on these topics for a while. There have been so many great comments on these topics lately, so maybe this is the right time to launch this thread and gather all our thoughts about these topics in one place.

I was praying this morning to be led into truth. There are so many preachers, pastors, Christian authors, radio speakers, and yes – even NTM leaders :o - who love to tell us who they think God is and even more than that, they love to tell us how we should live. Even as lay people it’s tempting to start telling each other “the way it is”. It’s like we all so badly want to get things figured out. And when we think we’ve “got it”, of course we want to (helpfully) share our superior knowledge with others! So, how do we know what is right and true?

I John 2:26-27 answered my question so well this morning:

I have written these things to you because you need to be aware of those who want to lead you astray. But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you all things, and what he teaches is true – it is not a lie. So continue in what he has taught you, and continue to live in Christ.

Now that’s some news I can use! I only have to listen to one voice – the Holy Spirit’s. He teaches me what is true, He teaches me what I need to know. That is such a freeing concept too when I consider other believers who are not doing or saying what I think they should do or say. Ultimately, it’s not my problem. It’s the Holy Spirit’s problem. Can I trust the Holy Spirit to do his job? Yes.

I am not saying that we should not share our thoughts with others. I am saying that as we share, we do not have to feel a sense of burden to convince them. If what we are saying is true, perhaps the Holy Spirit will use it to help lead the person we are speaking to into truth. That’s awesome! On the other hand, maybe the Holy Spirit wants to use other person’s comments to lead me! Either way, my job is just to continue to live according to what the Spirit is showing me and let the Holy Spirit do his job of leading as all individually into truth.

So I am starting this thread in that spirit. Let’s share our thoughts and trust the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:49 pm 
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The following is an excerpt from an interview of Jeff VanVonderen, author of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. What are your thoughts?

STEPS: Let’s change the focus a bit and talk about how to recover from spiritual abuse. First, what about recovery for perpetrators of spiritual abuse? People in general don’t tend to be very hopeful about perpetrators of any kind of abuse. And for some good reasons. What’s your take on that?

Jeff: I think that pessimism is justified. First of all, in order for someone to recover from something, they have to realize that there is a problem, something to recover from. And when you have so much invested in being “right,” in being the one who “knows,” and you have led so many people down the road—well, it takes us back to the equity issue. Perpetrators of abuse have a major equity investment in the system. It’s hard to lose that. Also, it would have to be a horrifying realization to recognize that many of the things you have been doing for God have really hurt people. There is an incredible amount of equity that would be lost by admitting the need for help in this area. God will always offer grace. That is not the issue. The issue here is whether or not a perpetrator has a capacity to receive grace. Most don’t even think they need it. Grace just bounces off. It’s just like with any other issue. If the person who needs help doesn’t think they need help, then no one can help them.

STEPS: What is it that breaks through these kinds of barriers to receiving grace?

Jeff: It can just be tiredness that finally gets us to the point where we are ready to receive help. Sometimes all the pretense and denial is just too exhausting to continue, and we give it up. My instinct about what Jesus would say to perpetrators is that he would say, “Try harder.” He would say, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Then maybe a few would say, “I can’t.” And there would be hope for those folks. But most would say, “Okay, I can do that.” They would just try hard, try harder, try their hardest to be better, to be more correct. And maybe later they would be tired enough to understand what Jesus was really saying to them.

STEPS: It’s kind of like in early AA when people who came to meetings and were asked, “Have you lost your marriage yet?” or “Have you lost your job yet?” And if the answer was no, some old-timers would say, “Well, you probably still need some more experience with alcohol. Go out and get some more experience.” If you are not yet sick and tired of being sick and tired, then the cure won’t work.

Jeff: Yes. So go do some more, and if you get tired, we’ll still be here to help out. When Jesus interacted with the rich young ruler he told him, “Do everything that the law requires.” And the guy said, “I’ve done that already.” He should have said right away, “I haven’t and there’s no way I can do that.” But he was still deep in denial. So Jesus gave him a task that he couldn’t do: “Give up everything and follow me.” That he couldn’t do. Now some people look at that text and see it as just about selfishness—that the man was too selfish to give up his wealth. But I don’t think that text is about selfishness at all. The man should have answered, “I can’t” to Jesus’ first question. If he had said “I can’t” then there would have been grace. But when he was still that deep in denial, Jesus said in effect, “Well, you must need more experience before you will be ready to receive the help you need.”

STEPS: Just to be clear, you are not pessimistic about recovery for people who have abused others but who recognize what they have done and repent and seek healing.

Jeff: That’s right. I’m not pessimistic about recovery for anybody, for anything. I’m hopeful. That’s why I do what I do. But I am aware of the track record and of how difficult it is for spiritually abusive people to see what’s real and to change that pattern.

STEPS: The effects of spiritual abuse can last for a long time. Decades later it seems like it can still be easy to get triggered back into the abuse stuff.

Jeff: That’s true and it relates to another dynamic that we haven’t talked about yet. Spiritual abuse is talked about mostly in psychological terms. But there is also a spiritual dynamic to it—a dynamic of the spirit. Spiritual abuse is not just something that comes in a spiritual way or comes from spiritual people. In that sense it’s like physical abuse, which is not something that comes only in a physical way. When physical abuse happens, something physical is hurt. And when spiritual abuse happens, your spirit gets hurt. And that has long-lasting consequences.

Recovery is never easy for any of us. But I think that recovery from spiritual abuse is in some ways the most difficult of recovery journeys. One reason is that the person who has the greatest potential for helping us recover from spiritual abuse is the person we feel most alienated from.

Let me explain that a bit. When someone gets physically abused, they don’t necessarily distrust the Department of Social Services. The abuser wasn’t acting as a representative of the Department of Social Services when they abused the person. Similarly, when a woman gets abused sexually, she doesn’t necessarily distrust the person from the women’s shelter who offers to be helpful. She may distrust men in general, but the agency that is designed specifically to help is not necessarily a problem. The abuser was not acting as a representative of the agency designed to help abused people. So the woman who has been abused is not likely to think, If I go to the people who are from the agency that is designed to help me, I’m going to get hurt even worse. In the case of spiritual abuse, however, there is always a major problem with the “agency” that is specifically “designed” to be helpful: God. The fear is that if you go to God, you will get hurt even worse than you have already been hurt. Spiritual abuse always does damage to our relationship with God. It’s the worst. It’s a wound of the spirit. It’s a wound right down at the core of who we are.

STEPS: If you experience an abuser as acting on behalf of God, or speaking for God, or acting as an agent of God, you are really stuck.

Jeff: Abuse always happens in a relationship. And in the case of spiritual abuse, the abuse happens in the context of relationships where someone is in the role of representing God. Later, when the abuse has come to an end and we are looking for healthier relationships in which to recover, we may find other people—even people who may actually be faithfully representing God—but it will be difficult for us to trust in those relationships, difficult to invest again in relationships and difficult to relax.

STEPS: It seems like the struggle to trust people again is a very normal part of the recovery process after any kind of abuse. We usually start slow, risk a little, be vulnerable a little and gradually learn to trust again. But it’s much more difficult to give ourselves permission to have just a little bit of trust when it comes to our relationship with God. We often massively shame ourselves when our faith is hesitant or partial.

Jeff: Yes. One of the messages of the abusive system is that you have to have complete, total trust. So in recovery from spiritual abuse it is really important to give ourselves room to have little bits of faith. And also to learn to pay attention to our spiritual radar and to reconnect with our sense of blessing—and with the God who gives us that sense of blessing.

Jeff VanVonderen is an author and speaker. He is the executive director of Spiritual Abuse Recovery Resources, a ministry of Christian Recovery International. He also provides seminars, consultations and intervention services through the ministry of Innervention Inc. This interview first appeared in STEPS magazine, a publication of the National Association for Christian Recovery. All rights reserved.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 5:11 pm 
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Oh, that's some really good stuff! I really like that last part of your quote, about how hard it is to trust again ... even to trust God. But he is okay with baby steps ... isn't that awesome!

The only one he would ever say "try harder" to is a person who thinks they can do it, all by themselves. To those of us who are flat on our face in the mud, he never says, "try harder".

So good ....


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 5:52 pm 
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rroym - You have a very valuable perspective too and I hope you will participate in this discussion. Your comments on other threads are some of the "great comments" I was thinking of. I definitely do not want to do any bashing. I am not sure where I want the discussion to go either. I just want to give a chance to talk about some important topics in one place, instead of scattered over a few different threads. So we will see where it goes. Again, I hope you will join the journey. I want to hear your perspective too.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 6:07 pm 
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Heathen beaters, beware! Kathy and I will chase you off with our frying pans!

(I wish I could draw the picture I have in my head for this!) :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:17 am 
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This looks like it could be a very helpful thread to many people! It certainly raises some vital issues, and all the posters have shown a lot of grace and humility in what they have said. Some of you may want to consider re-posting some of your thoughts about these issues from other threads on the forum. Hopefully others, too, will chime in.

There is certainly plenty of room for differing opinions, many of which have already been expressed either here or on other threads. It's encouraging to see that this can be done without giving or taking offense; no Christian-bashing, no Heathen-bashing! Very refreshing and very much in keeping with what I understand the purpose of these forums to be.

Thank you, Kathy, for starting this thread. And, thanks to those who have contributed.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:16 am 
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rroym, I hope you won't mind if I copy some of your posts on shame here on this thread. You really spoke to me in a clear way, so I'd like to re-share your words on this important subject:

By rroym on 2/17/11:

I have been thinking about the subject of shame and thought challenging. One of my best groups at the hospital where I did my internship was based on this subject. I am not sure how this will work when I am writing this alone in my home. The people in the group were a mix of straight, gay, transgendering, people with mental health, AODA, depression, anxiety, self-harm and attempted suicide and possibly an eating disorder, but people suffering from an active eating disorder were usually in a different group.

One of the common denominators for all the members of the group was shame about what they had done. I do not believe in healthy shame. I do believe in feeling guilty for the consequences of our actions. I believe in grieving over the consequences of our actions, but I do not believe in a healthy shame. There are a number of people who disagree and that is okay. I will be adding a book to the resource section on shame. If you have a different take on shame please post your resource.

Anyway, the group members were experiencing a lot of shame for putting their families through attempted suicides, self-harm, aoda and other issues. Here is my truth, all of these people had very good intentions for everything they did. Let me say that again, they all wanted something good for themselves no matter what it was they did. Those people who attempted suicide were trying to meet their needs. Those people using substances were trying to meet their needs. Those people engaged in self harm were trying to meet their needs. None of those people were trying to harm themselves nor harm their families. They all wanted to help themselves.

What did they want? They wanted to stop hurting. I have never had a migraine, but I have known people who have. The pain can be so great that they would drill a hole in their heads, take any substance, or even put a bullet through their heads if they thought it would stop the pain. The reason they did not do those things is because they realized that some methods of stopping pain come with consequences. A hole in the head cannot be undone. Once you are dead, you are dead and can't get up tomorrow without the pain. They chose not to take a specific action. They knew the pain would pass with time.

Prior to getting a therapist, psychaitrist, etc. the people in the group could not envision a time when the pain would stop. They also had no other ideas of how to end the pain beyond what they were doing. What they were doing was helping in the short run even if it was making the situation worse in the long run. They were trying as hard as they could to feel better. Where is the shame in that? When you have engaged in some behaviors for a certain amount of time the behavior becomes a living entity, your life and your thinking change to fit that behavior.

Because that is true, I recommend finding a good clinician who can help you discover other options to deal with the pain. Many of the people in the group had done just that. They were winners, survivors, overcomers. Once these people came to see that they were only trying to take care of themselves they were able to let go of the shame which was keeping them down. Okay they were able to do that for a few days and I hope they kept coming back to this thought.

All they wanted was for the pain to stop and they were taking action to get it to stop. Once they knew what they intended was a good thing, they were able to start thinking about ways to meet that need. They no longer looked at themselves a bad for a behavior. This freed them to think about what life affirming behaviors they could use instead.

Not sure how I want to close this. I don't like the idea of sin when I work with people. Sin gets in the way of truth. I look for ways to reframe shame as good intentions. Responsibility and guilt will still be there, but shame is the real killer. Anyway think about what you (people in general) want when you do something. What if there was a way to meet your needs that was life affirming?

Remember to give yourself a break. Be gentle with yourself today.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:19 am 
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More from rroym, posted on the Fredonia thread on 2/18/11:

To me, everything here is my view, shame is a felt sense based on a belief that I am bad, unworthy, and unloveable. I AM. Shame is a state of being and not based on what I have done. A simple example since I am not thinking well. My brother and I are coloring in coloring books at the same table. He wants to use the red crayon, but I am currently using it. I tell him I am using it just now but that I will give it to him as soon as I am done. He grabs my hand and pulls the crayon from it. I get angry and hit him on the nose. Why did I hit him on the nose? Where is what I did a problem.

Shame tells me that I am bad because I hit him in the nose. I am bad for feeling angry. I am bad for not giving him the crayon when he asked for it. I am bad for using the red crayon and not thinking he would want it. I am probably bad for even sitting down at the table. All of this happened because I am bad. I am bad because all of this happened. I am, simply put, bad and nothing good can come from me.

Guilt is an emotion which I feel when I hurt someone or myself in some fashion. You could say ,if you like, commit a sin. The first thing to note is that guilt comes from an action and not a state of being. To feel guilt I have to do something. I do not feel guilt because I simply exist.

Same scenario. I feel guilt for having hit my brother in the nose. I feel no guilt for feeling angry since it is a God given emotion which came about when my boundaries were broken by my brother. I feel no guilt for telling my brother he could use the crayon as soon as I am done. I feel no guilt for using the crayon or for coloring in the book. My guilt focuses my attention on my behavior of hitting my brother, but not on me as a person.

Underneath my action which hurt someone, I am good, worthy, and loveable. My guilt does not change that belief. I have made a bad choice, but I am not a bad person. Shame says no matter how good I try to behave, I am still bad no matter what.

There is most definitely a theological and spiritual aspect to this story. John Bradshaw acknowledges that shame is a spiritual problem in his book. I have heard that there is another book which uses variations of shame to express what I have said. If someone knows what that book is feel free to post it on the resources section. RESOURCES SECTION, hint hint.

Guilt drives me to change my behavior while shame tells me that I am bad no matter what I do. I would bet that all of the victims here have had to or are struggling with the shame that tells us we are simply bad.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:22 am 
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And my response to rroym's thoughts on shame, posted on 2/18:

"Shame says no matter how good I try to behave, I am still bad no matter what."

Yes, a GREAT description of the "shame" that I'm thinking of. That one does NOT come from God. It comes from the Deceiver, our Enemy.

That kind of shame is implanted deeply in the heart of a wounded child. And it stays woven into their image of themselves when they are adults.

I am bad. I am bad.

I reject that thinking!

I see it over and over in adults that I know and love. It breaks my heart when I see it, because out of it comes all sorts of unhealthy ways of coping, surviving, or numbing the pain of that deeply-rooted sense of shame.

rroym, you are making a LOT of sense to me!


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:26 pm 
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I am healed from the abuse I experienced here in the US and the things that happened at NTM with my family, I've gotten over it by burying most of it, but one thing I do still stuggle with is shame.
I'm ashamed of not living and walking with God for many years, I'm ashamed of many bad decisions I've made in my life, especially because it affected my parents so much. This I still struggle with. I feel like I can never make it up to them.
I've dissapointed them so much in my life that I try very hard to do everything as near perfect as possible. I felt for years like I was never good enough. Somehow that continued into my adulthood, I still feel like that most days, I go to bed thinking, I could have done this better and that better, and I pray that God will help me do that. I'm not saying I shouldn't reflect and always strive to do better, but I feel like I overdo it because of the shameful things I did in my youth, as if I could redeem the bad by doing great... I know that God has forgiven me, and so have my parents, but the consequenses of my actions haunt me. I don't know if the shame or guilt will ever completely go away.

I think the worst thing for me is getting my parents kicked out of NTM. It was their whole life, everything they lived for. I took it away from them in a blink of an eye. The pain I watched them go through, after a life time of only knowing NTM, then having to wade into the world and 'make it' as if they were foreigners, with not one friend in the world, they were shunned (the good ol NTM way) it was horrifying and deeply wounding to watch them be treated so poorly.
Like others have mentioned, I found many ways to ease that pain with drugs and other things, but when it was all said and done I was right back where I started. I felt worse than worthless. I don't feel that way anymore, thanks to God, however I do still struggle with the shame more for what I did to others than myself.
I don't feel like I deserve to be freed of those thoughts and feelings to be honest. I'm still mortified looking back, when I allow myself to think about it, thinking of the choices I made and the aweful things that happened.
I think one of the hard things for me is that I was the good child in the family for so long. I always got straight A's, I was in sports and excelled at them (guess it runs in the family) and I was the child that always had a job and helped pay for my braces and insurance, paid for a phone, gas, etc. They expected so much from me, at times it was overwhelming. On other threads I've referred to this - the NTM teaching parents how to raise their kids and my parents coming into the mission and one of them growing up in the mission too, had the mentality to push very hard. Nothing less than the best was acceptable and dissapointment came with dissaproving looks when the best was not achieved. I felt like I was always letting them down and in some way it made me crack, at some point I broke and rebelled with all my might. I went from bad to worse and from worse to really aweful, but God saved me from that road= Amen, and now I'm living with His loving arms picking me up and holding me through each day. He is so wonderful to me.
But the shame, I don't know if it will ever go away.


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